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Leading Blogger Joins Jewish Mainstream

A mainstay of the Jewish blogging world is scaling back his controversial commentary and joining the mainstream Jewish media.

Daniel Sieradski, who founded Jewschool, Radical Torah and Orthodox Anarchist, three blogs known for their provocative and left-leaning postings, started Monday as the Jewish Telegraphic Agency’s director of digital media.

To dedicate himself to this new position, Sieradski, 28, quit his editorial activities at Jewschool and passed on the reins to the site’s editorial board.

At JTA, Sieradski will be responsible for the agency’s Web site and for its video and podcasts. The young activist and writer, who goes by the online nickname “Mobius,” said he was happy to escape the contentiousness of the Jewish blogosphere, where he had been harassed by phone and was repeatedly called a self-hating Jew. In a farewell posting on Orthodox Anarchist, he wrote that giving up Jewschool feels “like a weight is being lifted.”

Although he won’t be writing for JTA, Sieradski said the news agency was concerned about his politics. “Their concern gives me an incentive to be more cautious; I have been needing moderation,” Sieradski told the Forward. “I have not had anybody limiting my speech…. It will give me a reason to think twice before opening my mouth.”

On his Orthodox Anarchist blog, Sieradski said that working at JTA would also help him gather the financial resources “to do things more productive than having public shoving matches.” In his free time, he plans to focus on Jew It Yourself, a project that helps young Jews actively participate in their local communities. The project’s Web site includes Shulshopper.com, which was created in February as a survey, in the same vein as the Zagat guides, for synagogues, and it will soon feature an online beit midrash.

In the past five years, Sieradski has been both a major figure of the Jewish Internet world and a cultural trailblazer with a diverse fan base. He was the director of Matzat, an organization specializing in Web development for Jewish not-for-profits. As a Web designer, his clients ranged from reggae singer Matisyahu to the American Zionist Movement. When he lived in Israel between 2005 and 2007, he worked on a project called Corner Prophets, through which he organized hip-hop concerts with Israeli and Palestinian rappers.

Steven I. Weiss, a young freelance writer (and former Forward staff writer) who founded the Jewish blog Protocols in 2002, thinks that Sieradski’s latest move signals the end of an era. “Dan was putting out the highest-quality content about fringe Jewish culture,” he said. But Weiss finds it encouraging that a mainstream company like JTA chose to work with a maverick blogger. “The test will be to see if JTA can open up to what Dan can do for them,” he said.

JTA’s executive editor and publisher, Mark Joffe, is confident that Sieradski understands the news agency’s culture. In an effort to reposition JTA for the 21st century, Joffe said that the agency’s Web site would be more interactive and open to blogging. “We want to turn the site into a place for the exchange of ideas, where Jews can come and exchange ideas on the issues of the day,” he said.

“These blogs may ultimately be better than Jewschool,” Sieradski told the Forward. “It’s a content that may reach a more mainstream Jewish audience.”

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